Caelestiventus hanseni, the new Triassic pterosaur from Utah

August 13, 2018

We don’t post on pterosaurs very often, but I’m making an exception for Caelestiventus. Mostly because I had the unusual experience of holding a life-size 3D print of its skull a few days before it was published. Brooks Britt and George Engelmann are both attending Flugsaurier 2018 in Los Angeles, and Brooks gave a talk on the new pterosaur on Friday. It’s from the Upper Triassic Saints & Sinners Quarry in far northeastern Utah, which has also produced theropods, sphenosuchian crocs (like 80 individuals to date, no exaggeration), drepanosaurs (I’ve seen the material and that paper is going to be mind-blowing whenever it arrives), and other assorted hellasaurs. Some of that material is figured in the Britt et al. (2016) paper on the Saints & Sinners Quarry (a free download from the link below). As far as I know, the Caelestiventus paper is the second big volley on the Saints & Sinners material, out of what will probably be a long stream of important papers.

Anyway, since we’ve just been discussing the utility of 3D printing in paleontology (1, 2), I thought you’d like to see this. Brooks did caution us that the 3D model was a work in progress, and he now thinks that Caelestiventus had a more convex dorsal skull margin, with the downward forehead dip in the version that got printed being less prominent or absent. You can see a slightly different version in the skull recon drawn by second author Fabio M. Dalla Vecchia, which he kindly released into the public domain here.

Otherwise the 3D print is pretty good. The big plate below the orbit is weird and from what I gather not present in other dimorphodontids. Because the Saints & Sinners material was buried in sand, which is relatively incompressible compared to mud and clay, it’s all preserved in three dimensions with essentially no crushing. Caelestiventus therefore yields new information about Dimorphodon micronyx, which has been known since 1859 but mostly from pancaked material.

Stay tuned (in general, not here necessarily) for more on the remarkable tetrapods of the Sants & Sinners Quarry – the next few years are going to be very exciting. And since this may be my first and last Flugsaurier post, many thanks to the organizers for making it such an engaging and enjoyable experience, especially Mike Habib, Liz Martin-Silverstone, and Dave Hone.


9 Responses to “Caelestiventus hanseni, the new Triassic pterosaur from Utah”

  1. That looks so incredibly lightly built that it’s almost a joke!
    And that weird disparity between upper and lower jaws’ teeth..
    I’m delighted to hear of good 3D preservation.
    Indeed, there must be many fascinating revelations to come.

  2. Matt Wedel Says:

    Yeah, it’s pretty crazy. But the morphology is legit, with only a little wiggle room for the missing bits they had to reconstruct. But I’d say it’s only about as crazy as an ostrich or pelican skull, both of which feel like they are made out of very stiff paper. As Ali G would say, flying tetmapods – is they good, or is they wack?

  3. Mike Taylor Says:

    Well, that’s just astonishing: 3D preservation for material like that! It’s almost enough to make me want to work on pterosaurs. Almost.

  4. Zachary Miller Says:

    I’ll have to go over the known bones closer, but neither of those skull reconstructions looks “right.” Almost like they were trying to square the weird jugal with a typical Dimorphodon skull shape. Could the post-snout skull roof simply be taller to match the snout?

    I’ve been super excited about Saints & Sinners for awhile now, especially regarding the drepanosaurs. SOMEBODY PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DREPANOSAURS.

  5. Hello

    Excuse me, where can I download download the 3d file to print a copy of this skull?

  6. Matt Wedel Says:

    Beats me. I don’t think a 3D file has been published yet. I only got to see this because the lead author had it with him at the conference I attended last weekend.

  7. Mike from Ottawa Says:

    I found to my shock there are 8 posts under “stinkin’ pterosaurs” at SVPOW. I wonder if you need a refresher on ‘How to tell a pterosaur from a sauropod.’ There’s a good video on youtube on this by Anne Elk.

    More seriously, cool stuff. Saints and Sinners sounds amazing. I am going to take a walk now in the hope more exercise will extend my lifespan just for that!

  8. […] of them in theropods and pterosaurs (because reasons). I made such a nuisance of myself at the recent Flugsaurier meeting, talking to everyone who would listen about SMAs, that Dave Hone went and found some pneumatic […]

  9. […] with Haplocanthosaurus extended into August, and I CT scanned a Diplodocus caudal and attended a pterosaur conference. Mike kicked off a discussion about vertebral orientation with a pair of posts that would […]

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